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Undergraduate and Graduate Studies

Twisted filaments sense bacterial shape


Ajay Gopinathan and collaborators show that bacteria shape is regulated by twisted filaments. Bacterial cells maintain their shape and size surprisingly well during growth and proliferation. In many rod-shaped bacteria, cell shape is regulated by a protein filament, MreB . How does this small protein, with a size of ~5 nm, sense and maintain the geometry of a cell, which is several hundred-fold times larger? In recent work published in Nature Communications, Gopinathan, as part of a team with colleagues at UMass Amherst and Stanford, combined molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, coarse-grained modeling, and experimental measurements to show that the size and conformation of MreB filaments within cells is predicted by its molecular-level twist. The twist further determines the ability of the filament to bind to regions with different curvatures highlighting a potential mechanism of MreB geometry sensing.